July 18, 2021

I want you to imagine a tree. It might help to take your mind to the forest and pick any type of tree. A tall one preferably. Got it in your head? Okay, great! Look at its roots? Right…. you can’t see them because they are covered by the soil. My bad. Can you see the branches? The leaves? I’m sure you can. What a beautiful tree – or not.

If the roots are destroyed then the rest of the tree will not develop as it should. If the roots are firmly planted to the soil, well-watered, and given the right nutrients then the branches will be strong and the leaves will blossom. We are the same as trees – with the right conditions, care and upbringing – we bloom. If something bad happens to us and our roots are poisoned then we are exposed to a myriad of issues that taunt our functioning. That’s how trauma works.

Trauma is anything that disrupts the normal working of our brains and it can stay with us for the rest of our lives. We can understand how it forms in the following context;An-Introduction-to-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder-PTSD

  • Event – exposure to threats of harm (physically or psychologically), and extremely stressful or life-threatening situations that may happen in one occurrence or continually over time e.g., robbery, abuse, assault, accidents, natural disasters, bullying, death of someone, traumatic childbirth, etc.
  • Experience – what was/is your reaction to the harmful event? How did you interpret the event that happened to you? How did it make you feel? How did other people’s reactions to the event make you feel? This is where our differences come in. What is traumatic to one person may not be to another. How our brains assign meaning to the event is how we process it as traumatic or not.
  • Effect – these are the results of the event and they can be short- or long-term effects. This is the aftermath of whatever happened to you. Some people move on quickly from it but others are tied to it much longer and they might experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a psychological injury that can happen to anyone. Affected people live in survival mode as their brains are always on high alert for looming danger or the traumatic event that happened to them. Our brains are wired to protect us so when there’s a perceived threat, we go into a fight, flight, or freeze mode – imagine having to always be in those modes and your brain signaling an emergency repeatedly – that’s PTSD. It causes structural changes to parts of the brain, therefore, altering how one functions.

To understand how PTSD develops, let’s use the example of robbery;

  1. You experience robbery; someone steals from you at gunpoint.
  2. The robbery keeps replaying in your head in different ways.
  3. You always feel as if it will happen again. The thief will come and rob you again and probably doworse.
  4. You start harboring unhealthy beliefs about yourself, “I wasn’t too careful that’s why they stolefrom me.” You keep blaming yourself for the event.
  5. You avoid everything that’s related to the trauma like being outside by yourself – lest they robyou again and you’re alone and can’t ask for help.
  6. You don’t heal the trauma and you’re always on high alert sensing that there’s a threat. Thisrobs you of the joy of doing normal things because you’re afraid you’ll get robbed. Your mind is stuck on the feeling of fear – there are flashes of how the thief spoke to you and how it made you feel.
  7. The cycle keeps repeating itself.

People with PTSD deserve all the kindness in the world because it’s not easy living in the trap of your trauma. Now that you have an understanding of how trauma works and how PTSD comes to be, you may note an event in your life that traumatized you and you’re probably still living through it. We’re always here to talk if you need to tell someone about it. Call us today and let’s unpack your PTSD together.

We will explore the symptoms of PTSD in the next blog post.

Lisa de Geneste, LCSW

At Langniappe, we promise you a little extra. Our goal is to assist you in bringing about lasting and positive changes to your life. The word “Langniappe” means a little extra. It is a word that many people who have grown up in the Caribbean or Louisiana know very well.

“PTSD: It’s not the person refusing to let go of the past, but the past refusing to let go of the person. When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others.”

– Healthy Place

We look forward to working with you…